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Dog with soft dental chew on his nose

Soft Dental Chews – How Do They Work?

Soft Dental Chews – How Do They Work?

There are a plethora of dental chews on the market for dogs, predominantly in the form of hard stick-like products. These hard chews can provide physical dental cleaning and enrichment for many dogs and be an excellent adjunct to tooth brushing for oral hygiene. However, for some dogs, such as those with very small or sensitive mouths, or those with pain from tooth or jaw conditions, these hard chews may not be suitable. Thankfully, Vivus has soft chewable dental supplements so healthcare for these dogs is not left behind! Of course, the chews are suitable for dogs of all ages and sizes as well, not just for our teeny tiny or geriatric furmily.

When discussing dental chews, supplements and oral hygiene, it is important to keep some terminology in mind. Plaque is the name of the bacterial biofilm that can form on teeth, while tartar is the hard, mineralized aggregate formed from plaque on teeth over time. Just like with humans, the best way to reduce plaque buildup and prevent tartar is to brush teeth! However, once tartar accumulates, it cannot be removed by brushing and requires scaling. It is important to be aware that dental health isn’t just about cosmetics – of course we all love a perfect pearly white smile, but periodontal health is more than just for looks, it’s about comfort and long-term health as well. Not only is periodontal disease (inflammation of the gums due to poor dental hygiene) painful locally and the leading cause of tooth decay and loss in dogs, but it also threatens their systemic health. Bacteria accumulating in plaque on teeth can lead to systemic inflammation and have been associated with kidney and heart disease – two of the most common chronic diseases in dogs (Kouki, Papadimitriou, Kazakos, Savas, & Bitchava, 2013; Polkowska et al., 2018).

Like humans, brushing is only part of the picture for dogs. Chewable dental health supplements can be a great option here, and are particularly important for dogs for whom other forms of oral hygiene, like brushing or hard dental chews, may not be appropriate. Chewable supplements have local activity in the mouth, and their soft and somewhat sticky composition allows the active ingredients to linger in the mouth and exert their benefit. There are three main ways that dental supplements can impact oral hygiene: reduce plaque-forming bacteria, reduce tartar compounds, and freshen the breath.

Inhibition of bacteria

The first step of periodontal disease is accumulation of bacteria on teeth. In addition to tasting and smelling nice and fresh, the herbs parsley and cinnamon have antibacterial properties shown to inhibit bacterial growth, specifically for organisms associated with dental disease (Alshahrani & Gregory, 2020; Wong & Kitts, 2006), while green tea extract and Ascophyllum nodosum (kelp) have antibacterial and anti-bio-film properties, and green tea extract in particular has been demonstrated to specifically reduce bacteria that cause gingival inflammation and reduce plaque accumulation on the tooth surface in dogs (Gawor, Jank, Jodkowska, Klim, & Svensson, 2018; Isogai et al., 1995)(Bai et al., 2016). Plant-based enzymes are another natural antibacterial compound that can break down and inhibit bacterial proliferation in the mouth (Pleszczyńska, Wiater, & Bachanek, 2016).

Physical removal of plaque and tartar

Physical abrasion can also help to remove forming plaque and potentially even light tartar from the teeth. With a soft chewy supplement, this can be achieved with the inclusion of natural zeolites, a crystalline mineral compound that cleanse the teeth without relying on hard fibrous materials as in hard dental sticks (Ha et al., 2013; Hertzenberg & Dent, 1985).

Breath freshening

Not only does green tea extract reduce bacteria in the mouth, it also inhibits saliva putrefaction and reduces oral malodor (Lodhia et al., 2008). In addition to their antimicrobial effects, cinnamon and parsley also provide a nice fresh scent. The end result is less offensive doggy breath and a more smoochable snout!

Oral hygiene is as important for dogs as it is for humans. Safeguarding our canine companions’ health and wellbeing includes proactive dental care. If oral health is neglected, dogs may experience discomfort and pain and require more frequent veterinary dental procedures which have their associated risks and benefits. Brushing teeth and/or offering chewable dental supplements regularly are a safe and natural way to maintain oral health in dogs – even those with fewer teeth, small mouths or are otherwise uninclined to chew on hard dental sticks. If your dog has a particular challenge, always discuss with your veterinarian to determine what strategies there are to help them thrive.


Alshahrani, A., & Gregory, R. (2020). In vitro Cariostatic effects of cinnamon water extract on nicotine-induced Streptococcus mutans biofilm. BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies, 20(45). doi:10.1186/s12906-020-2840-x

Bai, L., Takagi, S., Ando, T., Yoneyama, H., Ito, K., Mizugai, H., & Isogai, E. (2016). Antimicrobial activity of tea catechin against canine oral bacteria and the functional mechanisms. Journal of Veterinary Medicine and Science, 78(9), 1439-1445.

Gawor, J., Jank, M., Jodkowska, K., Klim, E., & Svensson, U. (2018). Effects of Edible Treats Containing Ascophyllum nodosum on the Oral Health of Dogs: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Single-Center Study. Frontiers in Veterinary Science. doi:10.3389/fvets.2018.00168

Ha, W.-H., Ahn, J.-H., You, A.-R., Kim, J.-H., Cho, M.-J., & Shin, S.-C. (2013). The Interdental Cleansing, Stain Removing and Calculus Deposit Inhibition Effect of Toothpaste Containing Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate and Soft Granule (Zeolite-M). International Journal of Clinical Preventive Dentistry, 9(4), 199-206.

Hertzenberg, E., & Dent, A. (1985). Zeolites NaHA and CaHA as toothpaste abrasives. Studies in Surface Science and Catalysis, 24, 589-596.

Isogai, E., Isogai, H., Kimura, K., Nishikawa, T., Fijii, N., & Benno, Y. (1995). Effect of Japanese Green Tea Extract on Canine Periodontal Diseases. Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease, 8(2), 57-61.

Kouki, M., Papadimitriou, S., Kazakos, G., Savas, I., & Bitchava, D. (2013). Periodontal Disease as a Potential Factor for Systemic Inflammatory Response in the Dog. Journal of Veterinary Dentistry, 30(1), 26-29.

Lodhia, P., Yaegaki, K., Khakbaznejad, A., Imai, T., Sato, T., Tanaka, T., . . . T, K. (2008). Effects of green tea on volatile sulfur compounds in mouth air. Journal of Nutirtional Science and Vitaminology, 54, 89-94.

Pleszczyńska, M., Wiater, A., & Bachanek, T. (2016). Enzymes in therapy of biofilm-related oral diseases. Biotechnology and Applied Biochemistry, 64(3), 337-346.

Polkowska, I., Sobczyńska-Rak, A., Szponder, T., Żylińska, B., Orzędała-Koszel, U., Capik, I., & Matuszewski, L. (2018). The Impact of Periodontal Disease on the Heart and Kidneys in Dogs. Kafkas Univ Vet Fak Derg, 24(5), 633-638.

Wong, P., & Kitts, D. (2006). Studies on the dual antioxidant and antibacterial properties of parsley (Petroselinum crispum) and cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) extracts. Food Chemistry, 97, 505-515.

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